What Internet Speed Is Needed for Online Teaching? (+Backups)

Almost needless to say: Internet speed and reliability are vital for online teaching.

As an online teacher, you’ll likely lose the fee for any lesson during which your Internet was the reason to cancel or substitute the lesson. You may be penalized monetarily. Your popularity and ratings may take a hit. You may see lessons pulled from your schedule.

Certainly, the last thing an online ESL teacher wants to do is lose time, income, effort, and stress due to their Internet connection being slow or unreliable.

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So, fast, reliable Internet should be at the top of your list of technical requirements. This guide explains the minimum speed requirements for online teaching, as well as the best options for backup connections.

What's the minimum speed for online teaching?

The Minimum Internet Speed for Online Teaching

Most online ESL companies have prescribed minimum Internet speeds to work with them as an online ESL teacher. Here are some examples of requirements from some top online ESL employers:

CompanyRequired Internet Speed
VIPKidWired High Speed Internet at least 25Mbps
ALO74Mbps/8Mbps (upload/download) and Ping at most 100ms
Magic Ears10Mbps (upload/download)

As you can see, the Internet speed requirements differ between each of these companies. However, none of these companies’ Internet speed requirements are difficult to satisfy.

Still, online ESL teachers live across the globe, and ensuring you can achieve these speeds consistently is paramount. To be on the safe side, we recommend subscribing to an Internet package that exceeds the minimum requirements:

Recommended Internet speed

  • High-Speed Internet at least 50Mbps
  • Ping rate less than 100ms (less than 50ms is ideal)

Why Ping Rate is also Important

Ping rate, or latency, is the delay in how long it takes for traffic to get from a device to its destination. Ping rate is measured in milliseconds, and the lower the number, the better.

If you have a high-speed connection, but your ping rate is slow, that means the time it takes for your video, audio, and other packets of data to reach your users at the other end.

Every device connecting in between will also add delays according to their ping rates, as will the ping rate of your end user (your online ESL students).

Ideally, you want a combination of high-speed Internet and low ping rate.

Wired or Wireless Connection?

Some companies, like VIPKid, require a wired connection, which means your computer is connected to the router via an Ethernet cable, and not through a wireless connection, or Wi-Fi. A wired connection is generally faster, more stable, more reliable and more secure than a wireless connection, so using a wired connection will be more advantageous.

Some modern notebook computers now have a reduced number of ports as a result of their slimmer, lighter designs. For example, recent models of Macs come with USB-C ports only, meaning you will need an adapter to use a wired connection.

Here are some excellent USB-C multiport hubs you can get on Amazon to get a wired connection, as well as add more ports to your computer:

Anker USB-C Hub for MacBook

PowerExpand Direct 7-in-2 USB-C Adapter Compatible with Thunderbolt 3 USB-C Port, 100W Power Delivery, 4K HDMI, USB-C and 2 USB A Data Ports, SD and microSD Card Reader

Check the price on Amazon

Totu USB-C Hub, 9-in-1

9-in-1 Type C Hub with Ethernet Port, 4K USB-C to HDMI, 2 USB 3.0 Ports,1 USB 2.0 Port, SD/TF Card Reader, USB-C Power Delivery, Portable for Mac Pro and Other Type

Check the price on Amazon

How to Test Your Internet Connection Speed

You can use speedtest.net to test your Internet speed and ping (latency) rate. The speed test takes about a minute, and you’ll see something like this:

Internet speed test results on speedtest.net (Screenshot)
Speed test results on speedtest.net (Screenshot)

Have a Backup Internet Connection

Why? Because, at some point, things will go wrong. Your electricity could go out due to weather conditions. Your Internet might be disconnected due to service disruptions in your area.

Whatever the reason, you can count on the day arriving when you will show up for work and find yourself without an Internet connection. Online ESL teachers who live in geographic areas where such outages are common can relate.

Here are different options for your backup connection:

Use Your Mobile Carrier Data Plan

The good news is you probably already have that backup Internet connection right on your smartphone. Most modern smartphones can double up as Wi-Fi hotspots, so you can connect to the Internet on your computer using your phone’s data connection.

Enabling the personal hotspot on your iPhone.
Use your phone to connect if your primary Internet connection isn’t available. (Screenshot from Mac)

This might not be an option if your mobile data carrier does not support tethering. If this is the case for you, consider switching to another carrier, or think about buying a portable router or mobile hotspot.

Be sure to test your phone’s data connection speed with a free service like Fast.com.

Use a Mobile Router

Mobile routers are excellent backup devices because they operate like a wireless router, except using a data SIM.

Mobile routers are affordable, compact, and easy to operate, so if you need to connect when other Internet connectivity options are not available, a portable hotspot device can be a lifesaver. Plus, you can travel with them, and share the data connection with multiple devices. You will need to purchase a Data SIM plan to use a portable hotspot.

Here are two bestselling routers available on Amazon:

GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext Gigabit Travel AC VPN Router

300Mbps(2.4G)+433Mbps(5G) Wi-Fi, 128MB RAM, MicroSD Support, Repeater Bridge, OpenWrt/LEDE pre-Installed, Cloudflare DNS

Check the price on Amazon

GL.iNet GL-AR750 (Creta) Travel AC VPN Router

300Mbps(2.4G)+433Mbps(5G) Wi-Fi, 128MB RAM, MicroSD Storage Support, Repeater Bridge, OpenWrt/LEDE pre-Installed, Power Adapter and Cables Included

Check the price on Amazon

International Data SIMs

One way to ensure you have fast, reliable backup Internet on a consistent basis, especially while traveling, is to get an International Data SIM, which you can use with a smartphone, tablet or portable router.

An International Data SIM gives you the flexibility of adding pre-paid credit and using it for emergencies only, without having to pay monthly fees or additional fees for tethering. Since this is intended to be used as a backup to your main broadband connection, you’re only going to pay for the data you use when your primary Internet connection goes offline, or when you travel, for example.

Popular International Data SIM Providers are:

Both providers give you a range of Data SIM card options based on how and where you plan to use data, so it’s best to check both out and decide which provider has the right SIM solution for your needs. Data SIMs are affordable, can be used in many countries, and are thus ideal for online teachers who frequently travel.

Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots

Mobile hotspots are great for traveling online ESL teachers because they offer fast, reliable Internet connectivity in many countries across the globe that are popular among ESL teachers.

One of the advantages of using these devices is you can opt for a pay-as-you-go plan, either paying per day or per gigabyte of used data.

The other advantage is that you can rent these devices instead of owning them, so if you plan to use one while traveling, you only pay for the number of days you rent them. If you are a regular or long-term traveler, it is better to own than rent one, but they are currently a little expensive to buy upfront, especially if you will only be using one to teach online ESL.

You can also keep one around at home as a backup device in case your home Internet connection drops. But for that, if you can tether your phone data, we think it’s better to use your phone’s personal hotspot feature or go with a portable router, as both options are less expensive.

Check out the plans from SOLIS Wi-Fi; you can buy a monthly plan or buy data volume which does not expire.

These are our 6 recommended computers for online teaching.

The Wrap-up

Your Internet connection needs to be both fast and reliable to teach ESL online. Speed should not be much of an issue for most people these days, but reliability is still something of an issue for online ESL teachers. Slow speed and frequent disruptions to your connectivity most likely impact your online teaching schedule, and thus, your income.

Be sure to choose a provider that offers Internet speeds above the requirements of the companies you intend to work with. Always have a decent backup plan for those rainy days when your Internet connection might not be on your side.

Read our guide on teaching English online through Skype.

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